Gun found in Ashburton murder probe

NICOLE MATHEWSON, TALIA SHADWELL AND MYLES HUME
Last updated 14:32 03/09/2014
CAMERON BURNELL/Dominion Post

Police and the Ministry of Social Development hold a joint media stand-up about ongoing incidents involving WINZ offices following Monday's shooting in Ashburton.

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An Ashburton woman has reportedly been injured by a wire that was pulled across a walking track.

The woman was walking her dog on a track by the Ashburton River when she was injured by a piece of wire.

Ashburton District Council open spaces manager David Askin said the woman told a local radio station this morning that the wire had been pulled across the track.

Council staff carried out two thorough searches of the area where the woman was injured, but did not find anything.

The incident reportedly happened in a small area off the main track by Ashburton's dog park and Robilliard Park.

Askin said staff searched the entire area between the Ashburton Bridge and River Rd.

Council staff had also spoken to police who had been in the area on Monday searching for Russell John Tully, who was alleged to have killed two Work and Income workers and seriously injured another.

"Whether it's to do with Monday's case we'll never know," Askin said.

Canterbury District Commander, Superintendent Gary Knowles, said police searching for alleged gunman Tully did not encounter any similar traps.

Tully was arrested after an eight-hour manhunt - including scouring the Ashburton River banks, after he allegedly shot dead Ashburton Work and Income staff Peg Noble and Leigh Cleveland, and wounded Lindy Curtis.

Police found the firearm they believe was used yesterday.

Knowles refused to say where or what time the firearm was found yesterday, nor whether it was found by police or a member of public.  

Anyone who found anything similar was asked to contact the council immediately on 03 307 7700.

EXTRA SECURITY AT WORK AND INCOME OFFICES AMID THREATS

Security is being beefed up at Work and Income offices nationwide after more threats following Ashburton's deadly shooting - with police warning they will "come down hard" on copy-cat threatmakers.

Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle announced today in Wellington that 100 security guards are being deployed at Work and Income offices around the country following alleged threats in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of two workers in Ashburton.

The measures are in place to protect and reassure staff and clients, Boyle said, following office closures due to more threats. 

"This will not be tolerated," Boyle said.

However the guards will not be searching people who enter the offices for weapons at this stage, he confirmed. 

Deputy police commissioner Viv Rickard said police presence around Work and Income offices in Christchurch will also be increased. 

Canterbury Work and Income sites had been closed this morning after a verbal threat was made against staff in Christchurch. 

Rickard said there had been nine incidents concerning Work and Income offices since Monday - and some had prompted Armed Offenders Squad callouts.

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Police were taking action on every threat, including shutting down sites in some cases until they were confident staff were safe, Boyle and Rickard said in a joint statement yesterday.

"It's unacceptable that MSD staff are subject to such abuse in the wake of this attack. All MSD frontline staff are naturally shaken by Monday's events, and this is the last thing they need."

MSD was referring every threat to police formally and the agencies would continue to work closely together, they said.

"People cannot and should not be able to threaten others without consequence."

Additionally to earlier alleged threats made against Christchurch and Blenheim offices, an office window had been broken in Nelson. 

A Work and Income office in Rotorua was today closed after a person made a violent threat to staff over the phone, a police spokesman said.

There had also been an incident in Mt Maunganui, Rickard said.

"We are treating this incredibly seriously."

The police wanted to send a message to people threatening staff that their actions would not be tolerated, he said. 

"Those people are intimidating New Zealanders who are trying to do their best. We will come down hard on people who are seen to be threatening New Zealanders inside their workplaces.

"Our country is better than this. We don't need to go about threatening our people in the workplace."

Boyle said staff mood was "on edge" amid the environment of threats, and to his knowledge some had taken leave since the Ashburton tragedy. 

However they could take reassurance from efforts to boost security, he said. 

Work and Income already dealt with some clients remotely if they were trespassed from its offices.

Heightened security would remain in place indefinitely and MSD would be reviewing which what measures should remain, he added.

"Of our 7000 face-to-face interactions with clients a day, the overwhelming majority are gracious and appropriate."

POLICE TAKING THREATS 'SERIOUSLY'

The Ministry of Social Development issued a statement this morning saying all offices in Canterbury had been closed as a precaution. 

All offices reopened at 1pm, except for Ashburton which was subject to the ongoing police investigation, and Kaiapoi, was remained closed for staffing reasons.

A police spokeswoman confirmed a complaint was received just after 9am today from a staff member at a Housing New Zealand office in Christchurch about an alleged threat made by phone. 

Police had spoken "at length" to the complainant and the alleged suspect and were confident there was no threat to anyone in this particular case, she said.

"Police take all such threats seriously and our top priority will always be to ensure the safety of staff and the public and respond accordingly."

Police would not be making any further comments on the incident, the spokeswoman said.

Police were taking action on every threat, including shutting down sites in some cases until they were confident staff were safe, Boyle and Rickard said in a joint statement. 

"It's unacceptable that MSD staff are subject to such abuse in the wake of this attack. All MSD frontline staff are naturally shaken by Monday's events, and this is the last thing they need."

MSD was referring every threat to police formally and the agencies would continue to work closely together, they said.

"People cannot and should not be able to threaten others without consequence."

- The Press

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